Yamaha has announced that Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo has signed a new contract with the Japanese team for the next two seasons. In doing so, he has made the first move in a market where a raft of rider contracts are due to expire, including those of fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa and Italy's Valentino Rossi. What's more, two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner recently announced that he would be retiring from the sport at the end of this season, which is likely to mix up the rider rosters even more.
In fact, it was when Lorenzo heard the news about the Australian bowing out that he decided it was time to set the wheels in motion. He immediately called his agent, Marcos Hirsch, who flew straight out to the Le Mans circuit, where the teams were preparing for last month's French Grand Prix. While Lorenzo had let on that he was keen to stay put at Yamaha, he also made it known that he was still a free agent. And, to his delight, the vice-president of the Honda Racing Corporation, Shuhei Nakamoto, expressed an interest in the Spaniard, as he did in 2010.
But Yamaha was always the objective of the rider. "There are three key factors when it comes to renegotiating a contract," Lorenzo said just a few weeks ago. "The emotional side of things, the bike itself and, finally, the money. If you are not happy with these three conditions, it is hard to carry on, and I would like to be at Yamaha, and be satisfied with these three premises."
Lorenzo now knows that he has the commitment of Yamaha, as well as having what is possibly the best all-round bike on the grid. And what's more, he knows that he wouldn't have got much more money at Honda.
I've been treated like part of the Yamaha family and I love working with them"
"I am extremely happy to have signed with Yamaha for two more years," Lorenzo said via a press release this week. "They've made great efforts to retain me in the Factory Team so I want to thank all those involved at Yamaha for this. I've been treated like part of the Yamaha family since 2008 and I love working with them. It has always been my first option to stay here and so I'm happy that this important negotiation has finished with such a positive outcome. Now I can focus on the championship and I'm looking forward to paying back Yamaha's trust in me starting at Silverstone this weekend. I look forward to winning many more championships together; my dream to finish my career with Yamaha is now closer to becoming a reality."
"This is excellent news for Yamaha and for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team," said Lin Jarvis, the managing director of Yamaha Racing. "Jorge has been with us since 2008 and achieved superb results in the first four years, the highlight being his World Championship victory in 2010. He's currently on top form having won three of the first five GP races and finishing second in the other two. Jorge's contract extension allows both him and Yamaha to concentrate 100 percent on this year's championship challenge without any distractions and also to make future plans together to further strengthen the winning partnership."
Lorenzo arrived at Yamaha in the MotoGP category after having won the 250cc championship two years running. Aged 21 at the time, he seemed unstoppable during his first season, taking the first three pole positions and winning his third race. He ended 2008 fourth in the championship and walked away with the rookie of the year award.
He finished second in the championship in 2009 and was crowned world champion in 2010, which was the last year that he shared a garage with the legendary Valentino Rossi. The Italian joined Ducati for the 2011 season, leaving Lorenzo as Yamaha's star driver.
The Mallorcan goes into this weekend's British MotoGP, at the Silverstone circuit, leading the championship, with 20 points over second-placed Casey Stoner. So far this season Lorenzo has won three of the five races run, and has been on the podium at the end of every single one.